Where we’ve got to

So there is a deal, but there are also some small chinks of light that suggest the fight isn’t entirely over yet. The BBC has made some more concessions about the detail of CAB 2011 to add in more inflation protection, and that’s what all the headlines are about. However, these are minor points that make little difference to the basic point that CAB 2011 is rubbish compared to our existing pensions.

More interesting is the small print. Below is the second last sentence in the ACAS statement.

“…the BBC will delay the implementation of the new reforms until 1 July 2011 if that valuation of the scheme (prior to reforms being taken in to account) is not known by 1 April 2011. If the valuation is known before then the BBC will implement as planned on 1 April 2011.”

Translation: the pension scheme changes will not be implemented until we know the results of the valuation. This is genuinely important, because it means that there is one final window of opportunity to challenge the BBC’s position. Previously the BBC was going to impose the new pension scheme as of early December, ie now.

The statement goes on to say that the BBC will reopen talks with the unions if the deficit is less than £1.5 billion. This is a significant concession, as previously the BBC had said it would only re-open talks if the deficit was less than £1 billion. Unfortunately I think the only reason that the BBC has agreed to this is because it knows the deficit will be over £1.5 billion, and as I’ve pointed out, it can effectively control the size of the deficit and ensure that this is the case.

The NUJ has responded by adding its own qualifications. A resolution passed by union representatives includes the phrase:

“We continue to believe the BBC has failed to make the case for ending the final salary scheme.” This is being read by union activists as keeping open the right to challenge the BBC’s determination to effectively destroy the existing defined benefit schemes. The resolution also says that the union will review its position when the actual deficit is published, and ballot members accordingly.

So, it’s less clear cut than the BBC’s emails would have us believe. There is still a window of opportunity, but it is a pretty small window. I think it will take very, very determined campaigning to persuade ordinary union members to re-open the fight with management if the deficit comes in where management clearly think it will come in.

I can’t help but reflect on the missed opportunity. Even acting alone with just one strike the NUJ frightened management into further concessions. A second solid strike would have been close to causing panic in the higher echelons of the BBC. Instead the sting has been drawn. Whether the level of emotional intensity necessary to sustain strike action, can be generated again remains to be seen.

In the meantime we have a marginally improved CAB 2011, but no hint of compromise from the BBC on reversing its appalling and unnecessary assault on our existing pension schemes.


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